Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – Venom Games/Human Head Studios Publisher – 2k Games Features 1 Player 5.25 MB to save game HDTV 480p/720p/1080i In-game Dolby Digital System Link (2-8 Players) Online Multiplayer (2-8 Players) Content Download Leaderboards Voice Chat ESRB: Mature - Blood and Gore - Intense Violence - Partial Nudity - Strong Language During the development of the Xbox 360 version of Prey, 2k Games latest release, I was really interested in not only the looks and gameplay, but the story as well. The premise of mixing native beliefs and an alien invasion into some sort of plot had me wondering if it could actually be pulled off. After playing through the game I have to say that although somewhat short Prey is a really good mix of what makes a game memorable. Graphics Visually speaking Prey is a real looker. Being developed on a modified Doom 3 engine one would expect it to look good and it does. Utilizing the power of the 360 Prey doesn't suffer any shortcomings that may have been seen when Doom 3 was released on the regular Xbox. This is to be expected though as the power of the 360 is so much more then that of the current generation Xbox. It should be also noted that another good comparison for Prey is Quake 4 which was released during the launch of the 360. After playing both games I can actually say that Prey is the game that Quake 4 should have been. Something that caught my eye off the bat is how solid everything is in each and every level. There is absolutely no tearing or clipping to be seen. I found this quite amazing given that many of the levels you play through have you walking on walls or ceilings and ‘flipping' various rooms around using switches in various areas. You would think that changing the perspective like this would have result in instances of seeing through walls or having other graphic anomalies of the sort, but this was not the case. Most of the game takes place in an alien world which doubles as their ship. What was very interesting about this was that each level did not seem repetitive in terms of its visual representation. There are 22 chapters/levels to go through and each has its own look. As I played I actually looked forward to forging onward as I wanted to see what was in store for me, visually speaking, in the next level. Furthering the visual experience, textures are not repetitive nor are the designs for each chapter/level of the game. It is obvious that the developers put some time and care into each part of the game making sure that they were not just regurgitating visuals from levels before. Even when you do come across an area you may have visited before, which is far and few between, the level is changed substantially enough to warrant your interest (Jen's bar, the Roadhouse comes to mind). For those true graphic whores out there the frame-rate is yet another testament to this game as well. Playing through many different levels with many aliens, weapons effects and explosions all on screen at once, this game did not stutter one bit. Yes, you heard me right, Prey didn't seem to hiccup even once. If it seems like I am kind of "gushing like a school girl on prom night" when talking about the visuals in Prey, well I am. As I started to play I was very cautious because I was still a little tainted by my experience with Quake 4, which disappointed me with its frame-rate stutters and very dark hallways. However, as my time with Prey got longer I shed my apprehension about the graphics as everything seemed to be just right and it really brought a smile to my face. Sound The audio is Prey is yet another great point to this game and all the sounds included in it made for an engrossing experience. First off is the soundtrack, which is done by the same individual who composed the music for Oblivion. I have to say that the musical score in Prey was perfectly matched for each level and pivotal scene I experienced. This is not something that I expected in an FPS such as Prey. This game may initially seem like just an all out shooter, but with the great visuals and story comes some great music. I remember one particular level where I was flying an alien shuttle and I exited through a door into a vast and open section of the alien world/ship. The orchestral score that all of sudden played added to the feeling that I just entered one hell of a big and expansive area and it added to the scope of where I really was and that my journey was far from over. It is this type of emotion that is a result of the music and it adds to full experience of the game. The voice acting is also pretty well done too. One would expect an FPS based on the Doom 3 engine to be all about gameplay and looks, and not about story or voice acting. Well I was pleasantly surprised to see that the voices of all the main characters added to the story that was unfolding in front of me. Be forewarned though that Tommy, the main character, has a tendency to swear quite a bit, so the content of the voice acting is not for children. I guess that only thing that was kind of surprising was that the alien's themselves spoke English. But on the flipside of this point is that if they were to speak some sort of alien language it would only make it kind of hard for you to understand what they are actually saying. Regardless of this one little irregularity, the voice acting overall is far beyond the cheesy fair that is associated with most stories found in FPS games. As for the rest of the sound effects, they too are also good. From the various alien weapons to the sounds of the alien environment (e.g. doors, machines, surface you walk on, etc), each was specific to what it was and nothing sounded generic as everything had a sound of its own. Explosions were also very plenty and very boomy too while the sound of the aliens dying also caused me to wince one in a while due the ‘splattering' noise when they were disposed of. For those with a 5.1 Dolby Digital set-up you definitely won't be disappointed as directional effects are very evident throughout and the subwoofer will get a nice workout all the way through the game. Gameplay For me gameplay consists of such things as control, learning curve, playability and in some cases story. For the latter, Prey does a great job. I won't give away too much as there is some great twists and turns during the time you will play. In summation you play as Tommy, a Cherokee Indian who is tired of living on his home reserve. As the plot begins to unfold, you are introduced to Tommy's grandfather and Tommy's girlfriend Jen. Tommy wants to take Jen away from their Native land and try to make a future in the city but she is proud of her heritage and wants to stay. During the dialogue that takes place aliens attack the bar that Tommy and company are in and all three are abducted. This is where your adventure begins. I am not going to tell you anymore of the story as it is a major part of the Prey experience. However, what I will say is that you will find yourself somewhat engaged by Tommy's plight and how the plot unfolds. Controls are very simple to learn and the game moves at a very up tempo speed. The 360 controller is my favorite console controller to date and Prey is right at home on it. There is nothing overly complicated and a real positive is that the controls are quite customizable, so for you lefty's out there you should be able to play this game. As mentioned Prey is a fast playing game and to tell you the truth this game moves almost too quickly for a console game and there is no doubt that some people may find it a little daunting. That being said there is the option of an auto aim that helps make the game that much more playable. Sure, the diehards will say that an auto aim doesn't take any skill, but ignore these people. Should the control feel a little tough an auto aim isn't that bad of a feature. Regardless of the speed though, the game is very playable and all those who venture into the world of Prey will have no problem playing it. The computer AI is relatively good and provides some challenge. There were a few gunfights that I found myself in where I actually enjoyed the fact that some of the alien opponents would actually duck and run for cover when I fired and they just didn't stand in the open and fire mindlessly at me. That being said, they were not overly hard to defeat either, but it was nice that the developers did make the enemies in Prey somewhat smarter allowing them to pose a bit more of a challenge then AI enemies in other FPS games. During my gameplay experience I found that there were a few levels where you fought countless numbers of enemies at one time. Some of the levels threw the same type of enemy at me in bunches but later in the game these types of experiences changed as lots of different types enemies were on screen at once for what resulted in a pulse raising experience. All my experiences with the computer AI definitely taught me that should you decide to just stand in the open and shoot you will find yourself on the short end of the stick so to speak and you will end up dying a lot. Speaking of dying, Prey takes the whole notion of death in a game and puts a new spin on losing your life. Unlike most FPS games where you restart the level at the start or save point with refreshed health and basic weapons, or you only have a limited amount of lives to get through with, Prey makes dying a mini-game so to speak allowing you to continue your adventure from the spot you finally met your maker. When you die you are transported to the spirit world where you have to shoot flying sprits to replenish both your health (red) and your spirit (blue) meter. You are given a short amount of time to do this and each time you are transported to the spirit world after an untimely death each experience is different with different numbers of each spirit flying around for you to kill and different obstacles blocking your shot. Innovation does play a big role with Prey, as evidenced by the spirit world mini-game, and the developers have also added another really innovative feature known as spirit walking. With a press of the ‘Y' button you are able to leave your human body and explore the level with in ‘spirit' form. While in this form you also have a spirit bow and you can attack and kill enemies with it. Spirit walking becomes quite important further on in the game as you have to use it to solve various puzzles in the game. I fully enjoyed using the spirit walk feature because it added some freshness to the game as I could approach various levels different ways, either in my human form or in my spirit form. As mentioned, you come across various puzzles in the game. Prey's puzzles are quite interesting and they help mix up the gameplay. Most of these puzzles vary from trying to get access various doors or switches to actually getting out of specific rooms. These puzzles will have you attempting to do such things as flick the right switch, spin the room in the right direction to picking the right door/portal to exit a specific area. You will have to think now and then, but overall these puzzles are not total mindbenders. I found that I enjoyed having to think while playing what could have been a mindless shoot-em-up game. The learning curve for Prey is not that daunting as anyone can pick up the game and start to play. I found that the game was not particularly hard and that anyone from a diehard to casual gamer will be able to finish it. Where the main difference lies is that the time it will take for anyone to fully complete Prey is determined on one's skill level. From start to finish, on the normal difficulty, Prey can be beaten in as low as 7-8 hours to as high as 12-15. Again I can't stress how much this is really determined by how good of a gamer one is, and if one really plays a lot of FPS titles they will no doubt fly through this title. Regardless of the time that it will take to finish Prey everyone will have a great time playing it. As with most FPS games there is also a multiplayer component to Prey. There is system link and online modes. I found myself really sticking to the online side of this area. Although somewhat fun, I was rather disappointed with the lack of features in this area. There are only two different gameplay modes: deathmatch and team deathmatch. These two modes can be played in custom game or ranked game form. Furthering my disappointment is that there is only support for eight players at one time and there are only eight different levels. If you look at the lack of gameplay modes, player allowed and the total number of levels, you have a multiplayer component that gets pretty old quickly. During my online play I was also surprised to find that I hit a lot of lag too. I am hoping that this may be due to the fact that the game has only been on store shelves for about a week now and that they are ironing out all the online performance issues. Some of the rooms I did play had people stating that they heard rumors of an online patch being released to fix all the laggy problems. On a more positive note Prey does support downloadable content, so it is hoped that new levels are going to be on the marketplace soon. It will be nice if some of them were free to further the life of the online mode. Conclusion I really enjoyed my game time with Prey. 2k Games has managed to accomplish something that very few publishers have been able to do in the past, bring out an FPS with an engaging story. With fabulous graphics and great sound to match, Prey manages to put forth one hell of a gaming experience. However the short game time combined with a laggy and rather limited online features prevents this game from becoming one of the great titles of the year.